Dedicated crop protection
Villa CP has focused on the development and registration of "unique commodity" crop protection products, primarily aimed at meeting the specific needs of farmers in South Africa
Writer Emily Jarvis
Project Manager Callum Philp
Since establishment in 1994, Villa CP has focused on the development and registration of "unique commodity" crop protection products, aimed primarily at meeting the specific needs of farmers in South Africa. The strategic direction of Villa CP is underpinned by a huge annual investment in product research and development. With a dedicated team that strive to be innovative in everything that they do, coupled with the mission to be customer centric and provide rapid response times for customers, the company "endeavour to help customers with all types of enquiries and needs," André Schreuder, Managing Director of Villa CP proudly says.
Villa CP is based in Johannesburg, with a product formulation facility (Fountain Chemicals) located approximately halfway between Johannesburg and Pretoria. The regional head office and warehousing facility is located just outside of Cape Town, in order to better serve the Cape market.
With the establishment of their own formulation facility three years ago, Fountain Chemicals joined the Villa Crop Protection/Exportos group as a manufacturing facility for the group and other interested parties in 2011. A new additional formulation plant for fungicide and insecticides (EC, EW, SC) has since been commissioned in June 2014, as part of a major refurbishment programme to upgrade the facility to meet international ISO standards. "Our ability to develop these unique product mixes [unique mixes of two fungicide active ingredients for example] has been a key way by which Villa CP has managed to stand out in the market," Schreuder further explains. Presently, a WP plant is also being installed in an ongoing multi-phase process that promises to further distinguish the company from its competitors.
Securing a Market-Leading position
Typically, Villa CP purchases active ingredients from countries such as China and India. The company has a dedicated import logistics department that manage this intricate process. "Once the active ingredients are imported, product formulation will be processed at Fountain Chemicals. From here, the ready-formulated products will be shipped to our central warehouse in Johannesburg or our warehouse in Cape Town," comments Schreuder.
In order to secure their position as a leading supplier of crop protection products in the local market, a phased approach has been followed. Firstly, to build a solid portfolio of product registrations and secondly, to ensure the company offer customers the best service in the industry. "In line with this, we are currently looking to expand our infield marketing and technical support infrastructure with the appointment of additional field staff," cites Schreuder.
What's more is that Villa CP are evaluating expansion options into the north of Southern Africa, which Schreuder is keen to get underway: "Product registrations are being targeted in most of these countries. A partnership model is foreseen in these countries in order to ensure local market knowledge and expertise form part of the ultimate product offer."
New Product Launches
Along with internal staffing and strategy changes, Villa CP introduces between 40 and 50 new products a year. "In the South African market, our focus is on the expansion of market share in key crops such as grapes, citrus, potatoes and deciduous fruits," affirms Schreuder. An analysis of the crop protection market clearly shows that in particular, the seed treatment market and the use of biological products are in a rapid growth phase. "These are trends that Villa CP will address and develop products specifically targeted for these submarkets," he adds.
Accompanying this ambitious growth is the annual target to grow company turnover by at least 20 percent on the back of this portfolio expansion. "The introduction of our Public Health portfolio is a key project for 2014. The official launch of the new Villa Fly Solutions portfolio consisting of 15 products is earmarked for later this year. This will be followed by the launch of the Villa Turf Solutions portfolio in 2015 and the Villa Industrial portfolio in the latter part of 2015," Schreuder highlights. Furthermore, Villa CP intend to construct a 5,000m2 warehouse in 2015, which will be followed by another warehouse of the same size in 2016.
Ultimately, Villa CP foresee healthy growth and Schreuder hopes to command at least a 25 percent share in the local crop protection market: "Ideally, by the time this is achieved, Villa CP will have a comprehensive range of products registered in most of the Southern African countries, marketed by dedicated team of high calibre local distributors."
For the crop protection industry, the key challenge stems from the dramatic decline in the number of novel new chemical molecule discoveries and subsequent products being introduced globally as Schreuder elaborates: "If there are few new novel chemistry products in the industry, then it can affect the management of weed resistance given a lack of alternative chemistries to 'rotate', in order to prolong the onset of resistance. The consequence of this is that we become more reliant on 'old' chemistry. However, with the proper training and research into the use of crop protection products, such as correct usage patterns to prolong the onset of resistance, we can make better use of the crop protection products currently at our disposal."
In order to manage the strain on cash flow as a result of rapid growth, Villa CP are diligently managing their finances in order to ensure business is sustainable. "The key is to not to focus on the short term gains but to invest heavily in the long term welfare of the company by way of an aggressive, albeit costly, product development and registration initiative," says Schreuder. Although there is ample opportunity in South Africa, the lingering issue of land reform can cause issues in how to approach agriculture locally, and can be a costly process as many farmers seem to be hesitant to invest for the long term at present.
The formation of the Villa Academy, which is to provide quality training on all aspects of crop protection, was the highlight of 2013 for Villa CP. "It is foreseen that the Villa Academy will ultimately present approximately 50 two-three day courses. Furthermore, an application has been made with the South African Educational Authorities for the accreditation of a one year Certificate in Crop Protection as well as a three year Diploma in Crop Protection," Schreuder continues:
"The target is to introduce the Diploma and Certificate in 2015. We can only develop agriculture in Africa if we have well trained agriculturists to tackle this challenge. We see the Villa Academy as a way to provide practical, hands on training facility. With 28 experienced lecturers under contract, this facility should be used to its fullest capacity."
Further to this focus on education, Villa CP also place considerable emphasis on their social welfare projects, with 10 percent of profit transferred to the purpose-built Villa Foundation Fund; which is then distributed to various entities in need. As a conducive environment to grow crops in, there is no doubt that Africa will play a much bigger role in global food production in the future.
"Agriculture is a huge driver for economic growth in Africa, and we want to be a big part of that growth," emphasises Schreuder. "As such, our ability to innovate and provide a quick response time to changing market conditions will always play a key role in Villa CP's success. It is vital that we employ the right people and instill an entrepreneurial spirit into our staff," he concludes.